Stories about extraordinary people who model compassionate leadership are fascinating and can provide inspiration for developing this ability. Compassionate leaders acknowledge our universal interconnectedness and use their influence to make a positive impact on others and the planet. These leaders are courageous, contemplative, collaborative and care about the world they will leave behind.
Compassionate leadership was first modeled to me by my colleagues at Medallion Hotels in the 1990s. As vice president of human resources, I worked with Chuck Feeney and Fred Eydt. Feeney was our very dynamic investor/advisor and is credited with starting the Giving While Living movement. This campaign has inspired others, including Bill Gates, to give away a large percentage of their fortunes to causes and philanthropies that are important to them.
Although it was secret to the public at the time, we knew of his decision to give away most of his wealth. When the company was sold, we appreciated that the proceeds from the sale were going to help people all over the world. His initiatives at the time included giving to schools and building hospitals.
As the CEO and president of Medallion Hotels, Eydt was a thought leader in his own right. His vision was to co-create a remarkable workplace where each member was treated with respect and dignity. The company provided every associate best-in-class benefits, performance-based compensation and learning/development programs that included an internal leadership university open to all. At the time, it was rare to find such initiatives in the hospitality industry.
Since then, there has been a growing trend of purpose-driven and social impact organizations. Founders of these enterprises understand executives are no longer the only leaders and that everyone in an organization can contribute professional visions, ideas and solutions. These companies know how to create environments where the potential of every stakeholder is unleashed. Ultimately, they are getting better results. A 2018 Deloitte study called The Rise of Social Enterprise found that companies that practice corporate social responsibility outperform their S&P 500 peers by eight times.
Founders who understand this paradigm are at the cutting edge of providing remarkable workplaces which in turn attract the best talent. One great example of this is fashion brand founder Eileen Fisher. Her highly successful company grosses over $500 million a year and provides all employees perks like an annual wellness and education budget. Leaders like Fisher understand that every decision made affects all the stakeholders including customers, suppliers, and employees. Recently, the company partnered with researchers and farmers to create more sustainable wool that ensures the sheep and land in their supply chain are treated humanely and ecologically.
We can all learn to be compassionate leaders. One recent example of that is how the Parkland students turned tragedy into influence. My hope is that this exploration will remind you to use your compassion and your voice, and perhaps inspire you to start a passion project or lean in where you already have influence with your co-workers, family members, friends or people in your online and off-line communities.